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Extreme Rightist Leader Fascinates, Frightens French Electorate
[Home Edition]
Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Meisler, Stanley
Date: Mar 9, 1985
Start Page: 5
Section: 1; Foreign Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

Even while saying this, the rightists have been slow to condemn him. Two electoral realities have made it difficult for them. Many of [Jean-Marie Le Pen]'s supporters come from the regular rightist parties, and it would make little sense to offend them while trying to woo them back. Also, the French electoral system of two rounds of voting encourages hard bargaining between parties after the first round. Rightist leaders think it would be foolish to denounce Le Pen while there is a chance that his supporters might switch to them.

Dominique Baudis, a 37-year-old former television journalist who is now the mayor of Toulouse, is one of the few members of Jacques Chirac's Rally for the Republic who denounced Le Pen from the beginning. Yet he feels that too much attention is paid to Le Pen, and he accuses the Socialists of exploiting the problem to divide the rightists.

Until two years ago, Le Pen was almost a political nonentity. He ran for president in 1974 against Valery Giscard d'Estaing and collected a scant 190,000 votes. His party, founded in 1972, could not scrape together 1% of the vote in any national election. But in 1983 and 1984 the issue of immigration propelled Le Pen and the National Front to respectable percentages.

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